2021 had deadliest first half of a year for drug toxicity in B.C., chief coroner says

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VICTORIA — British Columbia's chief coroner says at least 1,011 people died from suspected illicit drug overdoses from January to June, the highest death toll recorded in the first six months of a calendar year during the province's overdose crisis.

Lisa Lapointe says drug toxicity is now the leading cause of death in B.C. for people aged 19 to 39 and it remains the overall leading cause of unnatural death.

The coroner says in a statement the powerful opioid fentanyl was involved in 85 per cent of deaths.

Lapointe says the data released today highlights the immensity of the public health emergency.

She says it also shows the need for a wide-scale response to the overdose crisis, including affordable treatment and removing barriers to a safe supply of drugs.

In a statement, she says June was also the ninth consecutive month during which at least 150 B.C. residents died as a result of the supply of toxic street drugs.

"Those who died mattered and their loss is felt deeply," said Lapointe, who released the statistics on International Overdose Awareness Day. "We must continue to urge those in positions of influence across our province and the country to move to urgently implement measures to prevent more unnecessary suffering and death."

More than 7,000 people have died since British Columbia declared a public health emergency in 2016 because of deaths related to illicit drugs. The number of deaths has hit record levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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